Several thousand law enforcement officers from around the state gathered Wednesday to hear Mahnomen County Deputy Christopher Dewey eulogized as a hero.
Dewey, 27, was shot in the head and stomach in February 2009 while checking out a report of shots fired in a Mahnomen neighborhood. He never fully recovered and died last week.
"After the shooting, people called Chris a hero, but I think he always has been," his sister-in-law, Hannah Bergman, said during the service at Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park. "Chris showed me that every day is an opportunity to serve others."
Dozens and dozens of squad cars began pulling up outside the church about an hour before the funeral. Officers and deputies in various law enforcement uniforms were in the driver's seats.
Dewey's family entered the church followed by his Mahnomen County colleagues, who had their shifts covered by deputies from other agencies so they could attend the service. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and state Attorney General Lori Swanson also were at the funeral.
A silver urn holding Dewey's ashes sat at the front of the sanctuary next to a photo of him in uniform.
Dewey was a star football player who helped win the class 4A title at Cambridge-Isanti High School his senior year, and he continued to play football during his time at the Law Enforcement Training Program in Hibbing.
He was hired as a sheriff's deputy in Mahnomen County in 2004. He and his wife, Emily, married in 2007, and he was looking forward to starting a family with her, according to the funeral program.
Tears flowed freely during the service. Deputy Chad Peterson said his partner, Dewey, would have urged his loved ones to "be joyous."
"His whole life was a celebration," Peterson said.
After the funeral, a procession led by police vehicles headed to Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis where Dewey's ashes were interred.
Thomas Lee Fairbanks of Anoka is facing murder charges in Dewey's death. A co-defendant in the shooting, Daniel Kurt Vernier, pleaded guilty to failing to render assistance to the deputy and was sentenced last September to two years in prison.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)